The first of January hailed not only the start of a new year but also the implementation of a church body for Anglican congregations transitioning to the Roman Catholic Church.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter was officially created on Jan. 1. The Ordinariate will allow Anglican churches in the United States to join the Roman Catholic Church while retaining their Anglican tradition.
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Ordinariate, told The Christian Post that the planning of this new church body was the result of years of processing and planning for disaffected Anglicans.
According to Gibbs, around “23 new communities” have been accepted, which are comprised of about “1,400 people plus 100 clergy who have applied to become Catholic.”
This is not the first time Anglican clergy have sought ordination into the Catholic Church. In the 1980s Pope John Paul II created a “pastoral provision” that allowed American Anglican priests “on a limited basis,” including an exemption from the celibacy rule for those who were already married.
When asked if congregations and clergy from other denominations could join the recently enacted Ordinariate, Gibbs explained that they could not since the Ordinariate specifically allows Anglican or Episcopalian clergy only.
“We have not had the same requests from other faith groups,” said Gibbs, who added that should there be a coordinated effort then there would be consideration by the Catholic Church.
For churches like St. Luke’s Parish of Bladensburg, Md., the transfer from Anglican to Catholic has been a gradual process years in the making.
“[St. Luke’s] ceased using the Anglican Service Book for our worship and began using the Book of Divine Worship,” said Fr. Mark Lewis of St. Luke’s, in an earlier interview with CP.
“The Book of Divine Worship is the Vatican approved liturgical book used by Anglican Use Parishes in the United States.”
St. Luke’s was one of the Anglican churches that successfully petitioned the Catholic Church to join the Ordinariate and the first in the State of Maryland.
“We are proud and humbled to be part of this historic event!” reads their website.
“As such we are fully in communion with the Holy See and enjoy the benefit of a Catholic chaplain until, God willing, our pastor, Mark Lewis, is ordained a Catholic priest.”
In November, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., announced that a church body known as an “Ordinariate” would be created to incorporate American Anglicans who disagreed with the liberal theological direction of the Episcopal Church.
Several churches in the United States petitioned the Roman Catholic Church for reception into the Ordinariate. The Ordinariate’s first leader, or Ordinary, is Fr. Jeffrey Steenson, himself a former Episcopal priest.
“I pray that we who will come into full communion through this Ordinariate will bring the Holy Father much joy through our love and faithful service to the Catholic Church,” said Steenson in a statement released on Monday.
“But pray too that we do not forget who we are and where we have come from, for we have been formed in the beautiful and noble Anglican tradition.”